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Work in Progress: An Interdisciplinary Course Designed to Assist First-Year Students in Planning and Preparing for Success in the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Sunday 5-Minute Work-in-Progress Postcard Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Amy Trowbridge Arizona State University

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Amy Trowbridge is a Lecturer and Director of the Grand Challenge Scholars Program in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Her teaching focuses primarily on first year engineering students, and she is interested in curricular and co-curricular experiences that broaden students’ perspectives and enhance student learning.

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Haolin Zhu Arizona State University

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Dr. Haolin Zhu received her Ph.D degree in Solid Mechanics and Computational Science and Engineering from Cornell University. She is part of the freshmen engineering education team in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Currently she focuses on designing the curriculum for the freshman engineering program as well as the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program. She also designs and teaches courses in mechanical engineering at ASU, such as Solid Mechanics, Mechanism Analysis and Design, Mechanical Design, Computer Aided Engineering, etc. Her interests include innovative teaching pedagogies for increased retention and student motivation, innovations in non-traditional delivery methods, as well as structured reflective practices throughout the engineering curriculum.

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This Work in Progress paper describes an interdisciplinary course for first year engineering students focused on exploring the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges, and recognizing societal issues that influence engineering solutions to those challenges. This course is offered as a part of the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) at Arizona State University (ASU) to help students develop a personal plan for pursuing their interests in the program. The NAE GCSP is designed to prepare students to become the next generation of engineering leaders with a unique experience and skillset that includes hands-on research experience, interdisciplinary curriculum, entrepreneurship, global dimension, and service learning. The course described in this paper is one approach that could be used to help first year students to define and pursue their path toward becoming these future engineering leaders. At ASU, approximately 100 freshmen engineering students admitted into GCSP enroll in this interdisciplinary course each fall semester, which is taught in sections of up to 50 students. Through participation in this course, students develop an understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of the Grand Challenges and identify which challenges they want to focus their efforts on in their future in the GCSP. Students use digital portfolios throughout the course to reflect on their experience for each grand challenge theme area and their overall course experience, in order to relate their coursework to their interests and future plans. To prepare the students for their future in GCSP, students complete planning assignments which require them to meet faculty and develop a plan to complete the GCSP requirements.

The impact of this course on first year GCSP students’ awareness of the Grand Challenges, their interests, and their confidence that they will complete the GCSP was assessed. A custom survey instrument was designed to measure students’ familiarity with the Grand Challenges, GCSP requirements, and opportunities at ASU to complete GCSP requirements, as well as their confidence in their interests, future completion of the program, and having a plan to complete the program. Results indicate that this course is successful at meetings its goals of increasing students’ familiarity with the Grand Challenges and the GCSP, and at helping them to identify their interests and become confident that they have a plan for completing the GCSP.

Trowbridge, A., & Zhu, H. (2017, June), Work in Progress: An Interdisciplinary Course Designed to Assist First-Year Students in Planning and Preparing for Success in the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29142

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